Entering F1 will be much cheaper from 2026.
Formula 1 has confirmed the new engine regulations for 2026, and a new rule opens the door wide open for new manufacturers to enter the game.
The current hybrid powertrain engine specifications were introduced in 2014, and they are complex units. One of the essential parts of the current powertrain is the MGU-H, but it will be ditched in 2026.
To fully understand why this rule change is so significant, you need to know the MGU-H. Luckily, we recently spent some time behind the scenes with Mercedes, and they explained what it does.
An F1 powertrain has two energy recovery systems: an MGU-H and MGU-K. The MGU-K is essentially regenerative braking, while the MGU-H uses excess exhaust gases to charge the powertrain's battery. Since the automotive world, and the VW Group, is going electric, there's no real-world use for this system. What good would it do in a Porsche Taycan, for example?
Every electric vehicle and hybrid comes as standard with regenerative braking, which makes the MGU-K system relevant. Since MGU-H has no real-world application, it would have to be developed from scratch just for a team's F1 car.
The current rules also allow for three MGU-Hs per season, and anything beyond that would result in a grid penalty. In short, any new team with no experience with an F1 powertrain would start from the rear regularly.
The rule change is meant to lure new manufacturers. The Volkswagen Group has been quite open about joining F1, most likely with the Porsche brand. But it has also been said that it would not do so as long as the MGU-H remained part of the powertrain.
But what about the manufacturers that already spent the money developing the technology? Honda recently bowed out of the F1 engine-building game, but Mercedes is still very much in it. Mercedes does everything in-house, and it has won the manufacturer's championship eight years running.
Merc's team boss, Toto Wolff, spoke to Motorsport a while ago about this contentious issue. "I think it's a compromise that, I can't speak for anybody else, but at Mercedes, we are prepared to enter to facilitate the entry of the Volkswagen Group," he said. "But there are several other topics where compromise needs to be found," said Wolff.
The dropping of the MGU-H triggered discussions, resulting in the compromises Wolff mentions above. The new regulations stipulate that the 1.6-liter V6 engines will be carried over, the electrical power output will be boosted from 150 kW to 350 kW, and there will be a cost cap for engine development.
In addition, the cars will also be running on 100% sustainable fuel as opposed to the 20% they'll be running in 2022.